EP Review: Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm – ‘Loon’

Discussing his and Ólafur Arnalds latest effort ‘Loon’, Nils Frahm made a point of expressing how influenced the EP was by time spent ‘smuggled to Goa parties by my brother’. This makes a lot of sense. With a sound concocted entirely from synths, it has all the sparsity of disorientated childhood memories. Thing is, as the EP progresses, it all gets a bit more like you’re pondering these memories in some narcotics fuelled haze from a grimy bathtub in the nineties. Opening track ‘Four’ still contains all of the self-contained, considered and most importantly layered beauty of both of their much lauded individual and collaborative works as their new synths intertwine with what appears to be (amongst other instruments) a xylophone, and ‘Wide Open’ really does make an engagingly good dub-trance type track. From there though, it all gets a bit unnecessarily weird.

As the songs get thinner and the names get shorter, ‘w’ sounds like aliens trying to make contact through the medium of poor beat-boxing until halfway through, the track mellows and becomes far more like futuristic lift music. ‘m’ meanwhile, though well constructed, refuses to develop for the duration and merely accepts the most literal definition of ‘trance’ music as your head mindlessly bobs along.

According to the Press Release, this EP was created in five days as essentially an experiment with Nils’ fancy new synths. While self-indulgence is nothing to be avoided, ‘Loon’ feels like a self-indulgence which wasn’t fully ready to go any further. Though it may start strong, it peters out into an ambient and half-baked sounding blob; all well and good for a bedroom jam session, less so for a professional EP. As Nils commented of the Goa parties, “’Loon’ is almost a blurry memory of these times”: it’s just a shame they couldn’t sharpen the focus a touch.

‘Loon’ is out now via Erased Tapes.

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